Much of your ability to hear is controlled by tiny nerve endings in your inner ear. When these nerve endings (or other parts of the inner ear) are harmed, the result is sensorineural hearing loss.

Typically, sensorineural deafness does not result in a complete inability to hear. Instead, it lowers the individual’s ability to hear certain sounds. You might notice that some types of sounds are much less distinct, while others are too loud for comfort. Noisy conditions can make it difficult for you to pick out speech patterns. Following conversations can become difficult, especially if two or more people are speaking, while men’s voices may sound sharper than women’s. Additional symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss are feelings of dizziness or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

There is no single cause of sensorineural hearing loss that applies to all individuals. In some cases the individual has this problem from birth. The disorder could have an underlying genetic cause. It can also arise from certain infections which can be passed from mother to child.

The reasons for sensorineural deafness later in life are much more diverse. Acoustic trauma, exposure to an excessively loud noise, can cause this issue. Consistent exposure to lower level noise, such as working with noisy equipment or listening to loud music, can also result in inner ear damage.

Many people don’t realize that a virus can lead to sudden, sensorineural hearing loss. Viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can all lead to this issue. Equally problematic is Meniere’s Disease, which can lead to fluctuating hearing loss as well as tinnitus and vertigo. In both cases, corticosteroids may be able to provide relief.

Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by tumors, as well as sudden changes in air pressure and head trauma. A hereditary disorder known as otosclerosis can cause a bony growth to form around an important bone in the middle ear, leading to sensorineural hearing loss.

There is no doubt that sensorineural hearing loss can drastically decrease your quality of life, but there are ways to deal with it.

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